TODAY: The signing has been officially announced. It’s a $40.6MM deal that includes a $600K signing bonus, Tim Healey of Newsday tweets.
DECEMBER 12, 12:48pm: The deal is done pending McCann’s physical, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). An official announcement from the Mets is expected to come today.
11:21am: The Mets and James McCann are in the “final stages” of completing a four-year deal that will pay McCann around $40MM, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan, the deal is worth “just a touch over” the $40MM threshold and there is a signing bonus involved. The contract will be official once McCann passes a physical. McCann is represented by the Ballengee Group.
After reports surfaced earlier this week that McCann and the Mets were on the verge of a deal, it seemingly took a few days more to reach an agreement. While McCann was the second-best catcher on the free agent market after J.T. Realmuto, a four-year deal worth north of $40MM is more than double the two-year/$20MM pact that MLB Trade Rumors projected for McCann, making it a very nice score for the 30-year-old.
McCann produced fairly unremarkable numbers as the Tigers’ regular catcher from 2015-18, and was non-tendered following a rough 2018 season. McCann then joined the White Sox and rather surprisingly broke out, hitting .276/.334/.474 with 25 homers over 587 plate appearances since the start of the 2019 season. McCann greatly improved both his amount of hard contact and the quality of that hard contact, though he did get some good fortune in 2020 — a .339 BABIP and a .372 wOBA that far outpaced his .329 xwOBA. (McCann also had a .359 BABIP in 2019.)
McCann’s defense also took a step up, as recently outlined by MLBTR’s Steve Adams…
Behind the plate, McCann has long been adept at controlling the running game. Even with the Tigers, he nabbed 37 percent of those who attempted to take a base against him. One knock on McCann, however, was on his receiving ability — or lack thereof. McCann ranked well below average in terms of framing metrics for much of his time with the Tigers and even early in his White Sox tenure — a flaw that likely influenced the White Sox’ decision to sign Yasmani Grandal to a four-year pact last winter.
Recognizing that shortcoming, McCann spent the bulk of his (2019-20) offseason working with catching guru Jerry Narron to improve his receiving and framing. The results paid off, as Statcast ranked McCann as much-improved in that regard, particularly with pitches at the bottom of the strike zone, which was where he’d struggled most. McCann went from garnering strike calls on just 44.1 percent of pitches at or slightly below the bottom of the zone to an excellent 61.8 percent. One can suggest that there’s some small-sample smoke and mirrors at play, but McCann’s improvement was pronounced enough that it can’t be entirely dismissed as small-sample noise. It would seem that the Mets agree.
A four-year contract for a 30-year-old catcher (McCann turns 31 in June) carries some risk, though making an aggressive play to address a clear roster weakness is the type of boldness Mets fans expected once Steve Cohen bought the team. At least in the short term, the Mets have now strongly upgraded a position that was a major offseason question mark, and it also sets the table for further transactions.
For one, Realmuto is no longer in the picture, meaning that the Mets can now save their biggest spending splurge for another player….or even players. As noted by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, the Mets “stayed in touch with the Realmuto camp” if the McCann talks fell through, but with McCann now signed, a preferred major target like George Springer or Trevor Bauer could potentially be next.